Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman and senior offensive lineman Sebastian Tretola made one thing very clear after practice on Tuesday.
What has happened with the Razorbacks’ highly-celebrated offensive line so far is unacceptable.
Tretola made an impassioned speech before practice Tuesday to his fellow Razorbacks (1-1), who are reeling after last Saturday’s 16-12 loss to Toledo in Little Rock and heading into this Saturday night’s 6 p.m. home game with Texas Tech (2-0).
“I was just letting the boys know, we should have 100-plus men on this team and if you're a man and somebody walks up to you and punches you in the face, I would hope you're going to punch him back,” Tretola said.
“You're not just going to stand there and cry about it…It was along those lines. Just letting them know we've got to get back to who we are and what we do.”
Arkansas had earned a reputation for being a physical running team, but that has not been the case the first two games of this season.
“That's exactly what the whole thing is,” Tretola said. “That’s what everything is centered around. Because if we lose, we lose. You know, way of the world, whatever may happen, other team might be better.
“But we never want to be - I don't know if out-physicaled is a word - but we want to be the most physical 11 on the field, either side of the ball, special teams included, every single time. Every single time, no questions asked.
“You knew who the most physical team was and I think that's what we're getting back to this week definitely.”
Pittman, whose team rushed for just 103 yards on Saturday, agreed with that sentiment.
“It has been real hard,” Pittman said. “I’m a line coach. We want to run the ball. That is what we do and if we don’t, you feel like it is your fault. So then you go back to try and correct it awfully hard and awfully fast.
“I say we have really good kids, they want to be good and they will get there. But we have seen some things that have been tough on us and we’ll see it again Saturday and hopefully we will have it fixed.”
What got Pittman frustrated the most was scoring only three points in five trips into the red zone.
“We had 515 yards and 10 points so it would be execution in the red zone,” Pittman said. “That’s what it is. Penalties, turnovers, can’t run the ball.
“The bottom line is that if you can run the ball in the red zone, you are going to score a lot of points and if you can’t, you’re not. So we have to run the football, we should be able to run the ball and we didn’t.
“That’s as simple as it is.”
Being more physical was certainly the focus of Tuesday’s practice.
“It went good, man,” Pittman said. “There were a lot of positive vibes out there. It was a physical practice. We’ve got to move the line of scrimmage. That was our big thing, our big focal point this week. We’ve got to move the line of scrimmage and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Pittman admitted the loss to Toledo really hurt him.
“Saturday was, I’ve been in it 29 years, it’s one of those days you’ll always remember,” Pittman said. “But I think they responded well. It hurt them. It hurt us. I think they responded positively, certainly in a negative situation.”
One big focus this week in practice is to quit chasing defenders and starting to get vertical with defenses and being physical while doing it.
“What has been happening is that we have been going with it, just riding them across,” Pittman said. “We have got to get vertical and when we do, we will cut holes in that thing. We are certainly working as hard as we can.”
He was also clear he was not pleased with how physical his team has been so far this season.
“Certainly not,” Pittman said. “…We are a running football team, that’s what we do, that’s who we are and that is what are going to get back to.”
He also made it clear that those advocating tackle Denver Kirkland moving back to guard were not going to get their wish because it was not the right move.
“Well, Denver, we’ve thrown 73 passes, he hasn’t gave up a sack,” Pittman said. “ I don’t know what they’re talking about. And don’t care. But D, he’s the best left tackle we have on the team an he’s going to stay at left tackle.”
Pittman certainly made it clear that he agrees with Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema that Arkansas has its best five offensive linemen on the field.
“Absolutely,” Pittman said. “There is not even a question. There is not even a ‘well?’ Not even one of those.”
He also made it clear that he thought the run game should have been more of an emphasis in preseason camp.
“You get what you emphasize,” Pittman said. “We’ve thrown 73 passes and we haven’t gave up a sack and we can’t run the ball. That’s coaching. We’re trying to get it fixed the best we can. We’ll have it fixed.
There are four returning starters from last season’s offensive line that completely dominated the Red Raiders in the Razorbacks’ 49-28 win in Lubbock.
Arkansas rushed for 438 yards in the game and the Razorback ran 30 consecutive rushing plays to end the game.
Pittman was asked if that gave his group any more confidence heading into the game.
“There is not a lot of confidence today,” Pittman said. “It got better Monday, it got a little better Tuesday, tomorrow it will be a little bit better and by the time we get out there Saturday, we will be ready to roll.
“But right now, we feel it so we have got to get better.”
Pittman noted the Toledo loss left a mark, but has to be put aside quickly.
“I think everybody after you lose or after you win, there are good and bad in things like this, but this one was hard on us simply because we had them at home,” Pittman said. “But it is one loss and we don’t want to let that one turn into a loss again this week.
“So you have got to put it out of your mind as fast as you can as far as the loss, not the things that went wrong, but the loss and try to correct those things.”